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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER XXII FRESH PLANS
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 Geraldine Frobisher, sitting by the hearth1 in her drawing-room, glanced compassionately2 at Andrew. He looked gaunt and very weary, and she noticed a significant slackness in his pose. There was no one else in the room; the lamps were lighted and a log fire diffused3 a pleasant glow and an aromatic4 odor.  
"You are quiet to-night," she said.
Andrew looked up with a deprecatory smile.
"I fear I'm disgracefully dull; but I don't seem able to think of anything except that it's very pleasant to be here again."
"You consider that a good excuse?"
"I can't judge; I felt that I needed one. In fact, I don't know what is the matter with me since I came down-river."
Geraldine had some idea; a glance at the man supplied an explanation.
"You are worn out, for one thing," she answered sympathetically.
He mused5 for a few moments, and the girl was not displeased6. From the first she had felt on curiously7 confidential8 terms with him. He was direct and sincere and, though by no means shallow, he seldom puzzled her.
"No," he said, "it's not altogether that. We had a rather bad time before the relief party arrived, but I felt up to my work—anxious, of course, but not troubled[Pg 223] by the slackness that has since got hold of me. All this, however, isn't of much consequence. I'm very grateful to you and your father for sending help—we were in a very tight place when it came. But I don't understand how you knew we needed it."
Geraldine looked down, to hide her confusion.
"I wonder why you associate me with my father?"
"I can't tell you clearly, but I feel that you had something to do with the matter. Indeed, it made the relief more welcome. But you haven't given me an explanation."
"Do you understand why you failed to find the food?"
"Yes," said Andrew grimly. "I've a suspicion that you know as much about it as I do, though it's hard to see how you came by the knowledge."
Geraldine looked up with a forced smile. He must not guess how she had led Mappin to betray himself.
"It is rather astonishing, isn't it? The search gave you trouble, and you have some respect for your thinking powers."
"I've more respect for Carnally's; he found the clue. But he was on the spot."
"And I was handicapped by being at home? Do you know I sometimes think I'm not altogether stupid?"
"You're exceptionally clever," said Andrew warmly. "You have a gift for seizing on the truth and sticking to it. I think it's because the truth is in you that you recognize it. That's different from smartness."
She checked him with a gesture of mocking rebuke10.
"You should have learned that I don't expect you to pay me labored11 compliments."
"It wasn't labored; I believe it was a flash of insight," Andrew declared. He glanced at her face and laughed, looking baffled.
[Pg 224]There was silence for the next few moments. Geraldine knew what the man thought of her, but she approved of the respectful diffidence he generally displayed. Now that he was safe, she preferred that they remain on a purely12 friendly footing for a time; he was hers, but she shrank with a fluttering timidity from an open surrender. It was not difficult to repulse13 him gently when he grew too bold. Nevertheless his wan14 and downcast appearance roused a deep and tender pity. She longed to hear his troubles and comfort him.
"You suddenly changed the subject we began," she said. "Were you not going to tell me why you feel depressed15?"
"Something of the kind," replied Andrew. "It didn't seem a very happy topic."
"That was a mistake," declared Geraldine reproachfully. "You shouldn't have doubted my interest, and it lightens one's troubles to confide9 in a friend."
Andrew, in his dejected mood, felt a longing16 for sympathy and encouragement.
"Well," he said, "failure is hard to bear, and I've a strong suspicion that I've undertaken more than I'm able to carry out. So far, I've made a deplorable mess of things. We reached the neighborhood of the lode17 with no time to search the ground, and, for all the results we got, we might as well have stayed at home."
"But it's something to have proved that the lode exists."
"I'm not sure it's worth proving. The value of the ore is the most important point, because a mine could not be worked up there unless it was very rich. Then there's a risk of Graham's being lamed18 for life. Mappin has beaten us badly at the beginning of the fight."
[Pg 225]"It's only a small reverse. You would not use the means he employed. They were infamous19!"
"The trouble is that other opponents I shall have to meet may use similar methods, and unless I do the same, I'll be further handicapped. As it happens, I'm carrying weight enough already."
Geraldine looked thoughtful.
"In a way, you're right. I've learned something about the situation."
"If we had proved the lode to be rich, I should have had something to fall back on; but I've failed. Now I must attack strong vested interests, with the whole influence of my conservative relatives against me. My chief antagonist20 enjoys a high prestige, and has made an excellent profit on the money handed him." Andrew laughed in a rueful manner. "And I'm the fool of the family, who has lately taken to upsetting a very satisfactory state of affairs. Can you imagine the surprise and disgust of everybody concerned?"
"But your people are upright, aren't they?"
"Oh, yes; there's no doubt of that. But, with one or two unimportant exceptions, they're conventional and prejudiced. They believe in what they see; the prosperity of Allinson's, the dividends21 coming in. They distrust anything that seems out of the usual course, and they couldn't bring themselves to think there should be anything wrong with the firm. I, whom they good-naturedly look down on, have to convince them to the contrary."
"It will be hard; one can understand that. But the feeling of helplessness that troubles you now will pass. You must remember that you have borne enough to exhaust you."
"My body's tired," Andrew admitted. "One can get[Pg 226] over that. The real difficulty is that my mind feels sick."
"Is there no connection between the two?" Geraldine smiled at him. "You make me think it's the first time you have had any serious difficulties."
"That's true. It looks as if there were some benefit in being dull. You're saved a good deal of trouble if you don't notice things."
"I didn't mean that," Geraldine objected. "You're not really dull, you know."
"Then I'm something like it. But you don't think I've been foolish in starting on this campaign?"
"No!" said Geraldine promptly22. "I think you are doing what is fine! You must go on; I want you to win. The difficulties won't look so serious if you attack them one by one, and it must be worth something to have the right on your side. There is so much injustice23 everywhere and few people seem to mind. No doubt it's dangerous to interfere24, but it's encouraging to find a man here and there who is not afraid."
She looked up at a sound and saw her father standing25 in the doorway26.
"One here and there?" smiled Frobisher. "You're not exacting27. In France, they once asked for a hundred men who knew how to die, and found them in one southern town."
Geraldine's color was higher than usual, but she laughed.
"I suppose I am a bit of a sentimentalist; but you're too cynical28. I don't see why you should be proud of your detached and critical attitude. You look on as if the sight of people struggling amused you."
"I don't think I really am proud of it, but perhaps there's something to be said for the intelligent spectator who knows his limitations and is content with trying[Pg 227] to see fair play. However, I came to take Allinson away for a smoke. If I leave him to you, you'll be sending him off on some new chivalrous29 adventure."
Seeing that his host was waiting for him, Andrew rose, but as he reached the door Geraldine looked at him with a smile.
"What I said was rather crude, but I meant it."
"She generally does mean things; it's a habit that has its drawbacks," Frobisher said, as he led Andrew to his smoking-room, where he gave him a cigar and pointed30 to an easy-chair.
"What are you going to do about Mappin?" the American asked bluntly.
"Nothing. As he has only to deny what I told him to clear himself, there's no means of punishing him. I can't see any use in making a fuss that can have no result. It would simply show I was the weaker party."
"You're wise," Frobisher agreed. Then his eyes twinkled. "Carnally, however, seems to have seen a way out of the difficulty. You haven't heard what happened at the settlement?"
"No; I hired a sleigh and went for a drive. After that I slept until I came here. I tried to keep out of people's way."
"You missed a dramatic scene at the store. I'm told Carnally threw Mappin downstairs and out into the snow."
Andrew shook his head dubiously31.
"It's a pity, but I might have been prepared for something of the kind. I can hardly grudge32 him any satisfaction he derived33 from it."
"It was a good stroke; Mappin will find it damaging."
"But I understood he was a friend of yours," Andrew said with some awkwardness.
[Pg 228]"He came to my house. I put up with him, which I think describes it best, though I fail to see much reason for doing so any longer. But what are you going to do about the lode?"
"Go back and investigate it thoroughly34. We'll wait until the spring."
"Then you mean to proceed with your scheme? I see trouble, but I mustn't discourage you. Now I guess the situation warrants some candor35. Has it struck you that Mappin is working hand in hand with your brother-in-law?"
"I'm afraid it's true." Andrew's face was grave. "You can see how it complicates36 things."
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